Amoris Laetitia, “Trads” & Reactionaries

Amoris Laetitia, “Trads” & Reactionaries May 4, 2016

Precise Definitions & Accurate Categories are Supremely Important for Cogent Analysis


Image by “PixelAnarchy”: uploaded on 7-26-12 [Pixabay / CC0 public domain]


This is a continuation, with Catholic Tom Trinko, of our  prior discussion, entitled,  Dialogue: Amoris Laetitia: Confusing or No? His words will be in blue. This occurred on my (public) Facebook page.


You apparently don’t want to address my points so you wish to slur me by an ad hominum attack linking me to Rad Trads who I spend a great deal of time trying to bring back to the Church.

First most Rad Trads do not admit that VII documents are perfectly orthodox; they claim that they have a veneer of orthodoxy but are intended to be read in a heretical sense. I of course have always defended VII while condemning the “spirit” of VII.

I am at a loss as to how to understand how my saying that the Pope is not being clear, while being fully orthodox in his teaching, is calling the Pope a bogeyman.

Do you think that papal infallibility extends to prudential matters such as how best to communicate with his flock?

What I can’t understand is why you can’t admit the obvious, the Popes communication decisions in this case could have been better.

I do know that your reasoning does turn off the Rad Trad folks because they see it as saying that the Pope is incapable of any mistakes a definitively non-Catholic doctrine.

I didn’t link you to reactionaries. I stated above [in the previous dialogue post]: “you are not necessarily a reactionary. You could also be a traditionalist or a non-traditionalist ‘fellow traveler.’ One of the latter two is what you sound like to me.”

In these debates I often make general statements that don’t necessarily apply to the person I am debating. I have already clarified that.

I agree: reactionaries would tend to read VCII as you say. Trads usually say it is orthodox but ambiguous. Another reason to place you in the trad camp or even non-trad orthodox / sympathetic to much in trad’ism (as I am) . . .

I wasn’t talking about you at the end. I made an analogy (as I often do in argument) between your calling AL [Amoris Laetitia] unclear and “traditionalists and reactionaries say[ing] the same exact thing about the Vatican II documents.” Then I launched off my analogy to talk about other things they believe. I do this all the time in my writing. I often use the same techniques.

But as I just showed, I already had stated that I didn’t put you in the reactionary camp in the first place. These are all sociological generalizations, which is how such analysis must be in the nature of things.

You say it is “obvious” that the pope is unclear in AL. Believe it or not, there are people who disagree with you. If you can’t grasp that, you can’t. We all have opinions. You’re entitled to yours. I disagree with them. Whether you “understand” that or not, is not my problem. It is the fact of the matter.

I couldn’t care less about what reactionaries think of me. They’ve been lying about me for nearly 20 years. They’re worse than even atheists and anti-Catholic Protestants: the rudest, most uncharitable people online. I’ve been stabbed in the back by people with whom I made tremendous efforts at reconciliation. I’m lied about and mocked regularly on reactionary Facebook pages and websites and forums. I’ve been the target of vicious campaigns of slander deliberately designed to discredit me (and even harm my livelihood).

I’ve had papers on my site all that time saying clearly that the pope can be rebuked (albeit rarely and by the right people), can be wrong in a number of things; that I myself disagreed with this pope about climate change and nuclear power, that I disagreed with the past two about capital punishment and the Iraq War, etc.

I say and reiterate these things over and over and over. It never matters. It goes in one ear and out the other of these people. So why should I care about what they think of me when they can’t simply read and comprehend what I say and repeat ad nauseam? I utterly detest these sorts of things (not the people, but what they do and the false things they believe, and the tragic divisions they cause).

For a veteran writer you seem amazingly unclear as to what your words imply.

You wrote “you are not necessarily a reactionary. ” You go on to try and modify that but the fact you wrote that phrase by definition links me to reactionaries. General statements generally don’t start with “you”.

When one compares me and Rad Trads in an analogy one is saying that my approach is like theirs; i.e. grossly flawed. To say that that’s not talking about me is to express a whole new meaning to the concept of an analogy.

One does not need to be a Trad or a reactionary–both pejorative labels by the way–to recognize that the wording of VII documents could have been improved. The whole herumetics of continuity discussion is proof that standing alone VII documents have issues. Sure if one does the logical thing and used the herumetics of continuity the docs are clear but that is a bridge too far for many people.

By definition if many people find the AL unclear it is unclear. One can’t say that because some select few understand it it is clear. I can read a physics paper that you couldn’t understand but that does not mean it’s clearly written. You neglect to take into account the intended audience. If AL were intended only for theologians or experts like yourself then you’d be right in saying that the fact that non-experts can’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not obvious.

However when Bishops and many members of the laity can’t figure out just what the Pope was saying it’s by definition proof that the document is unclear. You seem to want to blame the reader but as a writer you know it’s your job to make your point clear not the job of the reader to figure out whatever words you slap on the page–not that your books are not well written.

And it’s unclear to me if you’re not lumping me with the folks you call reactionaries why you spend the latter part of your post attacking them and their bad manners. Rather your continual comments about the failures of the reactionaries, comments not germane to our discussion on whether or not the Pope could have communicated better, can not help but be construed as your linking me to them in contradiction to your earlier statements. If you must vent about these people do so when discussing with them not with me.

Finally this is not an instance of disagreeing with what the Pope is saying for I fully agree that a couple living as brother and sister can, under certain circumstances, receive communion. Hence it is not similar to disagreeing with the Popes scientifically incorrect comments on “climate change”.

I tried my best to explain myself. I guess, then, I am as unclear in your eyes as you think Amoris Laetitia is. Join the crowd . . . I’m happy to be lumped in (at least in this respect) with the wonderful Vatican II documents and this fabulous Apostolic Exhortation.

From where I sit you have not yet grasped the reasoning behind my position, and the logical progression of my thinking, that I have taken the greatest pains to explain to you. I’m sure that will go over like a lead balloon, too, but after this comment of yours I can conclude nothing else.

I just clarified that I was not calling you a reactionary, yet you assert over and over that I am in effect doing so, or doing so in a sneaky, equivocal manner. That is a direct rejection of what I plainly stated I was not doing, which is questioning my own report.

As I have always said, “I am the world’s greatest authority on what is in my own head.” Once a person doubts the self-report and explanations of a person about his own thinking, then dialogue is dead and can no longer lead to anything constructive.

“you are not necessarily a reactionary” was strictly a logical expression meaning, “it doesn’t follow necessarily [i.e., logically] from what I am saying, that I believe you are a reactionary.” You have taken that the wrong way, to mean (far as I can tell) something like, “I suspect you are a reactionary, but am playing games and saying that you are not so that we can keep talking.” I explained exactly what I meant, but it wasn’t good enough for you. I’ll say it again, in all caps and bolded: “I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE A REACTIONARY.” Believe what you like. Once again, you have concluded that my words cannot be taken at face value. Because you couldn’t understand what I was saying, you chose to make ad hominem attacks, which is also a deficiency of logic as well as charity.

The correct phrase is “hermeneutic of continuity”, not “herumetics of continuity.” If you’re going to critique it, you’ll at least want to get the spelling right.

“Trad or a reactionary–both pejorative labels by the way”

“Reactionary” is not a term anyone likes to be called. That is granted. But if the shoe fits . . . I coined the term “radical Catholic reactionary” precisely because the group that it describes looks at itself as the quintessence of traditionalism, whereas in fact it is a wholesale distortion of same and a disgraceful scenario of false labeling and co-opting of a good term.

Traditionalists expressed over and over that they didn’t like the term “radtrad.” They interpreted it as saying that “all traditionalists are radical” and so thought it was an intended insult against the entire class of traditionalists. That was made abundantly clear in the huge dust-up over Catholic Answers’ use of “radtrad” in one of its radio shows a few years back, at the same time I was trying to come up with an alternate term. This is not the intended meaning of it at all. Rather, it was defined by those who used it (including CA) as “the small fringe, extreme group of those who call themselves traditionalists but who are in fact not so, and are radical and out of the mainstream.”

I only used “radtrad” for a couple of years. My preferred term before I coined my own was “quasi-schismatic.” But I listened to my traditionalist friends and sought to use an alternate term that didn’t offend them, even going to the great lengths of going through all my papers and changing the terms, and re-editing two of my books.

“Radical Catholic reactionary” works because it doesn’t have “trad” or “traditionalist” in it at all: thus is not subject to being understood in the way I just described. Also, because it includes “Catholic” it can’t be construed as saying that I don’t think reactionaries are Catholic. So it kills two birds with one stone: precisely the two birds it needed to kill to succeed in its intended purpose.

Saying that “trad” is a “pejorative label” is an entirely new (and remarkable) argument that I have not heard before. “Traditionalists” call themselves that. Thus, when non-traditionalists use the term they are being polite in calling traditionalists their own chosen term: what they wish to be called.

Moreover, I virtually call myself a “traditionalist” since I am so close to, and sympathetic to the position in many ways (e.g., having attended Latin Mass for now over 25 years). I wrote a whole post about it.

So to say that I am now using the term as a pejorative is really out there: a truly surreal and bizarre proposition. Perhaps, though (it’s not clear: no pun intended) you are only objecting to the shortened version “trad”. That would at least make some sense, but not much more.

I can assure you or anyone else reading that the only reason I ever do that is because “traditionalist” is such a long word, and one tires of typing that out too many times, in talking about it.

I used “trad” four times in one paragraph of my previous comment simply as an abbreviation: and for no other reason. In the same comment I also used the abbreviations “AL” and “VCII”. If you are objecting to “trad” then I guess you think I am pejoratively viewing the Second Vatican Council and Amoris Laetitia as well, which is ridiculous. I also use “JPII” a lot. Am I putting down Pope John Paul the Great, too? You used “AL” twice in your last comment and “VII” twice.

Lastly, traditionalists themselves use “trad” all the time, too (I assume for the same reason: to avoid typing all those letters over and over; certainly not because they despise themselves). For example, traditionalist Kevin M. Tierney does it five times in one of his many articles on the topic:

“. . . trad circles . . .”

“. . . trad bloggers . . .”

“trads” (three times in two paragraphs near the end)

Traditionalist Taylor Marshall uses “trads” twice in one of his articlesEtc., etc. I could find scores and scores of further examples.

As an apologist, professional author, and sociology major in college, definitions and proper, descriptive, accurate titles are extremely important to me personally and to the work that I do: as seen in the great care I took to avoid offending traditionalists (hence, my cessation of use of the term “radtrad” and urging others to do the same).

I go through the same sort of arguments and wearisome objections made by anti-Catholic Protestants who absolutely hate being described as that. Yet as I have shown many times, this term has long been in use by historians and other scholars, and is perfectly respectable and descriptive. Thus, I use it. These are people who claim you and I are not true Christians, and that Catholicism is not a species of Christianity. To call them “anti-Catholics” is infinitely less insulting than what they are saying about us.

They need to be distinguished from the huge majority of “ecumenical” Protestants who do not reject Catholicism as sub-Christian, exactly as reactionaries (folks who ludicrously call me “neo-Catholic” or “modernist” or “Novusordoist”) need to be distinguished from true traditionalists because they do not represent that honorable and orthodox group.

You say you’re not calling me a reactionary because you interpret the phrase “you are not necessarily a reactionary” in a rather idiosyncratic way.

Yes I did, so that’s the end of that.

I will accept your claim that you didn’t mean that but it’s really hard given that you keep talking about reactionaries when you talk to me. Your reply -2 above has the last 5 paragraphs dedicated to reactionaries for example. But I’ll accept that you just didn’t communicate clearly.

You can accept whatever you like. Most of my readers have no trouble accepting my styles of communication and arguing. I am regularly told that my writings are clear and easy to understand. Once in a while someone doesn’t understand it. This is fully to be expected, so I’m not bothered by it. It’s mostly a subjective thing. If nine people say that one’s writing is “clear” and one says it is “unclear” one obviously has to write for the nine and not the one. A writer can only go by the feedback he gets, and (for Catholic missionaries) the fruits of his work.

I made no ad hominem attacks against you unless of course my pointing out the highly antagonistic way your poorly phrased comments could be interpreted is ad hominem in your mind.

<snark>If you’re going to attack my spelling you are clearly clutching at straws; I leave spelling to my editors. As a writer I’m more concerned about content. </snark>

Hardly. I’m just helping you out. If you go argue about this stuff and use that spelling of a well-known phrase, people will think you don’t know what you are talking about. So it was an act of charity. You can’t see that. Others can.

When a mainstream catholic calls someone who considers themselves a “true” catholic because they reject VII it’s a pejorative; a label for something that is not good. If you don’t intend it that way then I’ll keep that in mind in the future. I’ve never seen the term Trad used in a neutral or approving way but there’s always a first time.

Then you haven’t observed the traditionalist world and its self-terminology very closely. I have for 20 years. I gave you examples; they weren’t good enough for you. I could give many more, as I said, but since these had no impact, it’s unlikely that further ones would. People use abbreviations. This ain’t rocket science.

I too worry about offending people. That’s why I developed the term NONCC–Non-Orthodox Non-Catholic Christian–to avoid upsetting Protestants who objected to the label of Protestant.

But we’ve drifted far from the main point; the Pope’s extremely poor communication technique. No matter how “beautiful” AL is the reality is that the key issue at stake here is whether or not the Pope is endorsing Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The Pope should know that too.

Hence to not clearly state that the Sacrament is only available to those who are in effect not married, i.e. living as brother and sister, is simply inexcusable. You’ve given no reason that withstands scrutiny to justify the Pope not being clear on this very important point.

Because you’re an academic perhaps you think having to go to external sources to understand a document is normal but for the majority of Catholics if the document itself is unclear they’re in trouble.

I’m not an academic; I’m a lay popular-level apologist, who writes for and to the masses. But some of what I do is sort of “academic-lite.” Many academics like reading my writings. I just never claim to be a scholar, because I don’t have those credentials.

Further the Pope was not unclear on something that is intrinsically hard to discuss such as the Trinity but on something that is trivial to clearly state. All he had to do was say “Those divorced and remarried who are willing to live as brother and sister may be able to receive Communion.”

Yet even when given the chance he laughed it off and told people to listen to the Cardinal.

Given that we both agree that the Pope did not intend anything heretical we also both agree that the Pope’s interests are best served if people can clearly and definitively know what he intended. He’s failed at that.

Ah, I see how you view the Holy Father. He has “extremely poor communication technique.” He “should know” stuff that you know. You judge him for not doing what you think is absolutely necessary, and this is “simply inexcusable”. “the document itself is unclear.” He “failed” in this respect.

He was wrong to say that a Cardinal properly clarified his document. He has to do everything. So he screwed up again. He didn’t know that Cardinals couldn’t actually do some things, too. He should have checked with you. Damn! The lost opportunities of life . . . !

All this amounts to “I know better than the pope.” Gotcha. Duly noted. In an alternate universe perhaps you could have attained the office of Vicar of Christ. I have a hunch that in that world you would catch as much hell and receive as much unwarranted criticism as Pope Francis gets.

But it’s just a hunch. I prefer this world where the marvelous Pope Francis is pope. May he have many more years.


Meta Description: As sadly so often, discussion about Pope Francis & Amoris Laetitia, breaks down & becomes “ships passing in the night.”

Meta Keywords: Amoris Laetitia, annulments,apostolic exhortation,Catholics & marriage,Catholics & the family,Divorce, fellow travelers, Holy communion, Pope Francis,pope-bashing, public squabbling, Radical Catholic Reactionaries, remarried Catholics, synod on the family,useful idiots, well-intentioned folks

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